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June 21, 2006

Tom Kite


TODD BUDNICK: Sponsor exemption this week, Tom. Making your first start on the PGA TOUR this year.

TOM KITE: Probably only.

TODD BUDNICK: Ranked fifth on the Champions Tour, having a very solid season with your win at the AT&T Classic and a second at the FedEx Kinko's Classic. Also your TOUR record was passed by Jay Haas. We're looking to tie that back up this week.

TOM KITE: Well, yeah, I'd love to tie it back up. Obviously, Jay still has an exemption out here, so he'll go past me in the next few weeks, whenever he comes back and plays. The way he's playing, he going to play well. He'll go way beyond me before it's all said and done.

TODD BUDNICK: You had a great finish at Congressional. Talk about what brought you back here this week.

TOM KITE: Well, they called me up and said based on the fact I was a past champion here, having won at Avenel, the fact that I played pretty well last year, then all the speculation as to what's going on with this tournament for future years, they asked me if I would if they gave me a sponsor exemption, would I come. I said, Sure, yeah, I'd love to come back to Avenel, have such great memories of what happened last year here.

So, yeah, I accepted. Nice to be back.

TODD BUDNICK: Nice to have you back. Talk about your season on the Champions Tour so far.

TOM KITE: It's been up and down. I played exceedingly well at times. I had a great chance to win at Austin, my hometown, which would have been a nice win in Texas there. Jay chipped in three times in the last 12 holes, held it out of the bunker, chipped in twice. He ended up beating me by a couple shots there.

But I had a win early in the year at Valencia out in LA, which is really a good golf course, one that the PGA TOUR has played at before. We actually had the LA Open there one year when the PGA I think was at Riviera and we had to transfer it over. That was a well received golf course, really a good tough one, one of our better golf courses on the Champions Tour.

It's been a good year in that respect in that I've played well. I've had some weeks where I haven't played very well. It's been a little inconsistent.

TODD BUDNICK: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. You won the first event here at Avenel in '87. What do you remember from that week? Have you played here since?

TOM KITE: I played yesterday.

Q. How different is it?

TOM KITE: Well, a few of the greens have changed since that very first year, but they haven't changed in recent years. The golf course really after they made the initial changes those first couple years, the golf course has really remained the same. They added a new tee on No. 1 since I played here the last couple years. Basically it's the same golf course. The holes are still the same.

I went through the yardage back after I got it, flipping through it. It's kind of like everything: looks like it's still in the place that it ought to be. When I went out and played yesterday, it was.

That first year, it was probably a little bit more difficult. There were a couple of greens that were a little out of control, shall we say. That 9th green in particular was a brutal green. Big tier. The front was high, the back was low. There were a lot of doubles and triples made on that hole before the week as over.

Basically the golf course has remained the same. I know they're talking about making some changes here and redoing it. It would be interesting to see what transpires over the next few years.

Q. What do you remember anything specifically about your win here?

TOM KITE: Yeah, I mean, really the things that happened, Greg was the defending champion. He was playing very well. He came in here and was playing wonderfully well in the tournament. Looked like it was going to be a nice battle between Greg and I. Then he had I think he made double bogey on the 9th hole the last day, and I made 2. We had a 3 shot swing right there. I went on and ended up winning the golf tournament.

If I'm not mistaken, I don't think Greg even finished second. I think he finished maybe fifth or sixth in the tournament. It was a battle between the two of us right there for a long time. Of course, with him defending champion, playing so well at that time, it was a great win for me.

Q. What specifically brings you back to Avenel? I know you have a sponsor exemption right now. What do you like about this course and playing here?

TOM KITE: Well, you know, quite honestly, after last year, I played last year on the Career 50 list. I acted on that one year exemption. I played 13 or 15 tournaments out on the PGA TOUR, this one being one of them. Split my time between the two tours. After that exemption was gone, I really didn't expect to have any opportunity to play the PGA TOUR again, other than if I were to qualify for the U.S. Open, I'd try to play that, I'd try to do that. I missed out. I missed by a couple shots in Houston on that. So I really didn't expect to get anything.

I'm not going to ask for sponsor's exemptions. I think by and large those probably need to go to the younger players on the TOUR, let them do that. Obviously, with the good memories I have right here, the good friends that I have in the DC area, when they offered the sponsor exemption, I just said, Yeah, that would be great.

Unless I try to qualify for the Open next year, and if I make it, you know, that could be my last PGA TOUR event or something like that. Really, these are getting to be few and far between now because I have no access to this TOUR. I'm kind of enjoying the few events that I get.

Q. Can you talk about your game right now, how you feel coming in.

TOM KITE: Playing pretty well right now. I've had a couple weeks off. I skipped a tournament that I was going to play. We were going to play a tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. I was actually committed for the tournament. I played so many weeks in a row, I decided to skip that, withdrew from that tournament.

We were going to play in Boston the week after that. We got flooded out. They had torrential rains up there. Then, obviously, we were off last week because we didn't have an event opposite the U.S. Open on the Champions Tour. As I said, I failed to qualify. So I really had three weeks off. Other than going up to Boston and sitting in the hotel room, waiting for them to make a decision as to what we were going to do, I've had three weeks off.

Cautiously optimistic right now. I'm rested. I'm ready to play.

Q. As you obviously know, this tournament is in jeopardy of not coming back. They're talking about putting it on the fall schedule. Were you surprised to see this tournament was dropped from the regular PGA TOUR schedule?

TOM KITE: I think it would go way beyond surprised. I think it would be shocked. I think it's a travesty. How you cannot have a tournament in our nation's capital, especially a tournament that has been this good throughout the years. They've had great corporate support. Kemper was so actively involved with this thing for years and year, even before they moved to DC, moved up from Charlotte here in the mid '70s or '80. We've had a tournament in the DC year for 25, 26 years.

It's been unbelievably well attended. Great crowds, great support, great corporate sponsors. When Booz Allen stepped in and took over the sponsorship of the thing, it was a natural progression. It didn't adversely affect the tournament. If anything, it probably enhanced it.

I'm a little bit away from what's going on on the PGA TOUR, I'm way away from what's going on on the PGA TOUR right now. But looking at it, having played here for so many years, knowing what a great tournament this is, great support, I have trouble understanding it. It doesn't make sense to me.

Q. Have you talked to anybody at the TOUR about it, Tim?

TOM KITE: They're not listening to guys on the Champions Tour. We can't even convince Tim that the Champions Tour is worthy of getting points on the world rankings. We are the only tour in existence right now, the only major male tour that doesn't get points. You get points for the Nationwide Tour, the European Tour, Australasian, you get points for the developmental tour in Europe, whatever the hell that is. Yet the Champions Tour, you can't get points there.

Quite honestly, the PGA TOUR really doesn't view us as having a whole lot of credibility. They're not asking our opinions.

Q. Could you talk a little about the difference of playing more on the Champions Tour, coming back and playing in PGA events. Also, could you expand on the confidence that last year's result gives you this year.

TOM KITE: Well, it's different. Obviously the PGA TOUR is more competitive. You have more players that are really living and dying with every week, every result, every shot. By and large, the guys on the Champions Tour have already established themselves. Many of them don't really have to be out there playing. They just choose to play because they love to compete.

That's basically what I'm doing. I love to compete. I love to be out there. I love to be with the guys. I love to play golf. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to see how good I can be and how long I can make this last. So that's kind of why I'm out there.

You come out here, these guys are established TOUR stars or trying to establish themselves as stars. The competitiveness out here is significantly it's much more intense than it is on the Champions Tour, but it's still golf. The guys, when you get in the hunt out there on the Champions Tour, like to win. Like I said, the reason they're playing is because they love to compete. They're not backing off. The guys really enjoy the challenge. We're still doing it.

That aspect of it's the same. It's just more of 'em out here, more of 'em. They're great. It's fun for me to come out, get to see some of the guys, some of my buddies that I've known for so long. I just saw Brad Faxon up there in the clubhouse, just got in from the CVS, a tournament they have in New England. Brad and I have been good friends for a long time. It's great to see guys like that, that I played so many practice rounds and competitive rounds with.

And yet on the flipside, I played a practice round yesterday with Craig Barlow and Spencer Levin, then I played the Back 9 with van der Walt.

TODD BUDNICK: Tjaart van der Walt.

TOM KITE: I played with Tjaart in the qualifying in Houston for the U.S. Open. I got to know him there. It was good to see him again.

I'm getting to see a nice mix of the young guys trying to get going and see some good old friends.

Q. The fields in this event have not always been what a lot of people thought they should be. You played in the first one. What is it about the golf course that players like or don't like?

TOM KITE: I don't know. Congressional has the reputation of being the golf course in the area. Quite honestly, before they redid it, Congressional was not that outstanding itself. It had some design issues that needed to be rectified. Since they did it, I think Reese did it, came in prior to the Open a number of years ago. The golf course is outstanding. That course has the reputation.

But this golf course has really come along. For years they've had trouble with conditioning of the golf course. I don't know why, but they have. It's right across the street from Congressional. It's always been in nice shape. I don't know what the issues are. But right now it's in the best conditions I've ever seen it.

It's got a couple little goofy holes, but every golf course does. I really don't exactly understand what the gripe is with the golf course. Some of the early issues like we talked about, the 9th green, those were rectified fairly early on. It's a nice golf course right now.

Q. (No microphone.)

TOM KITE: The TOUR has made that mistake many times and they will continue to make that mistake of playing the TPCs too early. First of all, there's been some question about the design of the TPCs, in their hurry to get to the TPC sites, their hurry to play those early courses early on. We played Memphis too early. We played this one too early. There's been a number of them that have not panned out quite as well as they should have. That's just probably nothing more than mismanagement of PGA TOUR properties, just not taking the time to pay attention to the golf courses.

The whole concept of the TPC has changed through the years. They were supposedly easy walking golf courses. They were supposedly spectator friendly. They were supposed to work for the tournament. Golly, now they're designing some golf courses that you can't use for tournaments. We have one in Austin, Texas, one right across the street from Valencia in LA, and we can't use it. Very poorly designed. Very poorly managed. Not managed, but very poorly designed. Just doesn't work for the tournament.

They haven't paid attention to the original concepts. They've kind of jumped in, tried to make money. Unfortunately, it leaves us with some bad names and reputations for the TPCs. If we had played this golf course at least a year later and probably two years later, I don't think the rap on Avenel would have been nearly as great as it was.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you.

TOM KITE: Thank you all so much.

End of FastScripts.

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